Community Building: Why We’re Changing Our Commenting System

Hey. If you’ve been a regular Heavy Blog commenter for a while, you’re probably accustomed to the Disqus comment system we used to use. And if you’ve been paying some attention, you might have noticed we are no longer using Disqus. A vast majority of you will probably not care too much, and a vocal few longtime commenters might get upset. This isn’t a change we’re making haphazardly, and we’re not sure if this new solution is permanent, but I do feel that I owe it to explain to you why I decided to push for this change. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a bother for you and we can have even more fulfilling discussions.

There are actually several reasons why we’re doing this. Some are ideological, some are in the interest of self-preservation, and some are just for convenience. I’ll just list them for you.

1 – Ads. Disqus serves ads to people who browse our page. While this makes us some small amount of money, I’ve always found Disqus ads to be terrible. They take up a lot of space, push for shitty clickbait content, and are never relevant things that anyone reading this site would care about. With the increase in malware served by ad providers, and my distaste for most big ad providers, I could not stomach this. It’s not worth the money we make from these ads to serve this bad, potentially harmful content to you readers. The rest of the ads on our site are provided by the Blast Beat Network, which is run by people we know, and serves ads that would be of interest to our readers. With their ads we can talk to them if their network is serving a bad ad, so we have control over whether the ads shown to you contain malware. As an avid critic of ad-based content, this is a solution that I can live with, whereas Disqus’s system was intolerable to me. They collect your data and waste your bandwidth and serve you terrible content that is potentially unsafe, and it makes them money. This had to stop.

2 – Community engagement. I’m sure you’ve seen many people complain about this, but in case you’re unaware, I’ll break it down. A significant portion of our views come from Facebook. However, changes Facebook made over the past year or two have really screwed over outlets like us who don’t want to post clickbait content. To be able to post quality content that still gets seen by people who want to see our content, we basically have to pay Facebook to advertise us to people who already chose to follow us, and we don’t have the money to do that on a regular basis. Another metric that makes Facebook show a page’s posts to more people is engagement. The more people comment on or share something, the more Facebook thinks that content is worth showing to other people as well. Previously, comments made on the blog and on the Facebook page were entirely separate. This meant that any discussion happening on one side would be lost to the other side, and cross-talk wouldn’t be possible. Now, every comment made is mirrored on both sides, which means that there can be more discussion, and discussion generated here on the site will lead to more Facebook engagement, which leads to Facebook thinking our content is more worthwhile, which leads to them sharing our content with more people, which leads to the Heavy Blog community growing instead of slowly dying. Many sites don’t like to talk about this, but the traditional blog is dying, with metrics across the board showing less and less visits per site for most sites that don’t do pure clickbait. Community engagement is our hope to combat this. We will have more initiatives in 2017 to foster a Heavy Blog community, and this is us laying the groundwork for that.

3 – Accountability. Over the past years, we’ve had some people who think they’re anonymous stirring shit in our comment sections. We can totally track their IPs and figure out who they are, but it’s a hassle to deal with, and people are more encouraged to shitpost. If we are going to foster a community, we want people to own up to their words. Not only that, but we also want to form a connection with the people we’re talking with. We’ve been posting about serious issues in the metal community, and we are going to continue to do so, and we want to ensure people aren’t hiding behind anonymity to talk freely about eugenics (yes, that happened) or have artists we posted negatively about make “””anonymous””” accounts to stir up shit in the comments section. We want to get to know you all better, and engage with you more. It also helps manage spam.

4 – Ease of use. More people have Facebook accounts than Disqus. Not everyone wants to sign up to Disqus, and there is no way to foster engagement among users using Disqus. Also, many people simply comment on just the Facebook page. This way, people can talk to each other across the site and the page, and no one needs to create an account for this random service if they want to engage with us. I understand that not everyone has or wants to have a Facebook account, and I’ll be sad to see if someone is withheld from participating here because of that, but I think in the long term this is the right move for growth and positive community building. It also lets people follow up on discussions through Facebook messages, and people can become friends through these conversations and we can also engage with our commenters through our own Facebook profiles, which is how we also run blog business, by the way. This way, we can move towards building more community features in the future, and most people will have a Facebook account to participate in this, and everyone knows how to use Facebook so it won’t be some obscure service that they have to sign up for.

In the end, I think this is the right move for the future of the blog and the community we want to build around it. We want to foster engagement and interact with you. I personally don’t want to serve you shitty ads, even if it means we make less money. We’re not paid to do this anyway. We just need to pay for our hosting and auxiliary costs. Maybe this is the right move, maybe it isn’t. We’ll see. But I feel good about this, especially considering what we have planned for the blog in 2017 and onward. I understand that this is going to be annoying for some of our diehard commenters who really like Disqus. I hope that you’ll be able to stick with us despite that. We want to be more than just this page, so add us, talk to us, be part of our family.

And regardless of what the future holds, thanks for sticking with us all these years. We do this for you, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without you.

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